Between 2002 and 2007, the number of Black-owned businesses launched increased by 61%, to nearly two million, the greatest increase among all minority-owned businesses during that period. With high levels of unemployment resulting from the Great Recession of 2008-2009, there’s no reason to believe that this trend has abated, as African Americans choose the path of entrepreneurship out of necessity as well as choice. However, a less discussed subject is the failure rate of these businesses, as many of these entrepreneurs launch with insufficient access to capital and even less entrepreneurial training and experience. On top of that, many novice entrepreneurs approach their businesses believing a lot of the myths surrounding business ownership, for example, that they can get by on sheer faith and passion alone. The difference between sustained profitability and insolvency often boils down to entrepreneurs’ willingness to commit to self education before, during and after starting a new enterprise.
For those entrepreneurs and aspiring business owners who are serious about building sustainable businesses, Dante Lee’s Black Business Secrets: 500 Tips, Strategies and Resources for the African American Entrepreneur provides the reality check all aspiring business owners need before launching their ventures. And, as the book title indicates, Lee takes special pains to deal with the myths and realities specific to how Black people tend to approach entrepreneurship, serving up equal portions of encouragement and inconvenient truth. My mantra to entrepreneurs has always been: Learn before you launch. If you are serious about entrepreneurship (not just playing at it) you must read this book.
Lee, the 30-year-old president and CEO of Diversity City Media, a Columbus-Ohio based marketing and public relations firm known for its BlackPR.com and BlackNews.com online businesses, is an award winning entrepreneur who was selected to Ebony magazine’s 2010 young entrepreneurs list and named a finalist for 2006 Black Enterprise Small Business Awards. Tapping his own experience, as well as the examples set by successful Black entrepreneurs ranging from Madam C.J. Walker to Russell Simmons, Lee explores what it means to be a Black entrepreneur and to have an entrepreneurial mindset, as well as focusing on entrepreneurial best practices, with specific chapters devoted to finance, marketing and advertising, public relations and “cyberpreneurship.” This is supplemented with an impressive compendium of “business-building” resources, including top websites, blogs, conferences and professional development resources, specifically tailored for Black entrepreneurs and aspiring business owners.
But the best thing about Lee’s book is the straight-no-chaser advice he offers throughout the book, often on topics that aspiring Black entrepreneurs prefer to gloss over, ignore or view through rose-colored glasses. For example, in a section titled “Stop Making Stupid Remarks,” Lee identifies the things no one ever needs to hear from a Black entrepreneur, including, “Banks don’t give loans to Black businesses” and “I don’t do business with White people.” Another great example of this is the section “Four Things An Entrepreneur Should Never Say,” including, “I’m the hottest thing out” and “I own my own business in network marketing.”
All aspiring entrepreneurs, regardless of ethnicity, can benefit from reading Lee’s book, despite its title and intended audience. However, Lee’s mission is clearly to help African Americans to excel as entrepreneurs, not merely to promote good feelings about Black entrepreneurship. Black Business Secrets provides everything an entrepreneur needs to help Lee to achieve that objective.